If it doesn’t say Micro Machines, it’s not the real thing.

I have not been much of a racing gamer for a while. I certainly respect how much the genre has evolved from its early days; both the Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport series are an ever-improving apotheosis of racing at home, giving a simulation that is, in some cases, literally good enough to train us for driving on the real-life tracks the games represent

I learned a lot more about driving from these games than it is probably safe to publicly admit. Because of simulation racers, I think about lines and acceleration and vehicular physics in a way I maybe never would have grokked on my own. They were crucial to my skilled-but-not-necessarily-legal driving style.

The funny thing is, I suck at them.

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Battletoads: The Challenge of a Masterpiece

Losing is a part of life. This is not being in second place, either. This is last-place, giving-up-your-dreams, never-going-to-play-professional-sports kind of losing. For every person born on third base (and thinks they hit a triple), there are eight guys at bat who strike out and ten bench warmers. Being a Pittsburgh Pirates fan taught me that, among other things.

Those lovable losers (who are, incidentally, NOT-so-lovable losers; this will come back later) also taught me some other things. It’s the persistence, the journey, and the experience that matter. If you deal with the losses, it makes the victories all that much more precious. “Character” is real. Know all those assholes who can’t handle life without an umbrella? They’re the ones who had everything handed to them and can’t handle a little bit of rain.

Right. Everybody happy? Great. Because here’s a bombshell (note the sarcasm). It’s also nice to win.

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Nice Shooting Captain

The most succinct description of Captain Skyhawk is probably that it was for people who thought Marble Madness would have been better if only you were flying a jet from Top Gun.

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Biomes and the Blue Bomber

There is no question that Mega Man is one of the most iconic characters in the history of video games, deserving of a place in the highest echelon, alongside Mario, Link, and Sonic the NoLongerRelevant. His quiet and heroic demeanor, slick blue suit, and awesome weapon acquisition method all contribute to his status as the very best.

The structure of Mega Man games pretty much remains unchanged from the first installment – Mega Man fights his way through a series of stages in any order, defeating Robot Masters and taking their powers, then battles the evil Dr. Wily across multi-level final dungeon (WITH AWESOME MUSIC), and saving the day. It’s a comforting and familiar formula, like Pringles “potato chips;” they all look the same, taste the same, and when you finish one, you immediately want another.

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You are a man now.

Ninja Gaiden was an odd game for an odd time. It was part of the inescapable ninja craze of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s that I appear to have never grown out of, judging by the star tattooed on my shoulder. There were many other ninja games from that time, ushered in by (among other things) the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The key difference between this and the rest of those games, though, is a simple one: Ninja Gaiden is totally awesome.

It’s also harder than hell.

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